Ed Gein the Man Who Inspired Many Popular Horror Films
The farm of horrors
One of the horror films that has scared me the most was Psycho. Norman Bates is a genuinely horrific character. So when I discovered he was based on a real-life criminal, I researched him.
Ed Gein was born Edward Theodore Gein on 27th August 1906 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Nicknamed by the media, The Butcher of Plainfield, he was considered a loner. However, the secrets that his house of horrors yielded were terrifying. He inspired not just Psycho but films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs. So who was the real-life Norman Bates?
Gein was born to an alcoholic father and a verbally abusive mother. She taught her son that women and sex were evil. He also had an older brother called Henry. His father, who owned a grocery store, sold it and left the city with his family settling on a 155-acre farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin. In 1940, his father died of a heart attack related to his heavy drinking.
Tragedy again struck the family in 1944, when Henry died in a barn fire at the family home. Gein reported his brother missing and then, in a strange twist, led police straight to his brother's body. Although burnt from the fire, the young Henry was found to have bruises around his head. Despite this, the death was ruled an accident.
Distraught by the loss of her son, it was not long before Gein's mother developed a disability that her devoted son nursed. She, too, died in 1945; Gein preserved areas of his home as a shrine to his mother. He lived exclusively at the farm on his own from this point in his life.
It was not until 1957 that Gein would come to the attention of the police. Bernice Worden was a hardware store owner who was reported missing. Gein had been seen with Worden before her missing report. The police decided to search the Gein farm where they found her body; she had been shot and decapitated. What they saw next would provide the basis for many horror stories.
Gein had different body parts from graves he had robbed within the house. These body parts were being used as household items, clothing and masks. He had sewed some of the skin together to make a suit, as seen in Silence of the Lambs.
Within the property, they discovered the head of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner who had disappeared in 1954. Both Worden and Hogan were said to have resembled Gein's mother.
In total, investigators found the remains of ten women in the Gein home, although he was only ever linked to the murder of two.
A Trial of Insanity
Gein was arrested immediately but was found unfit to stand trial in 1957 for insanity. He was sent to a psychiatric institute.
The farm that had become a hot spot for visitors who loved crime and horror burnt down in 1958. Police never established the origins of the fire, but nothing of it remains.
In 1968, the prosecution decided that Gein was fit to stand trial. However, for financial reasons, the state only pursued one charge for the murder of Worden. Gein was found guilty but again deemed insane, so he was sent back to hospital.
Gein died on 26th July 1984; he was seventy-seven at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. His legacy and crimes live on in many popular films today.